The Grand Liberal Metafilter Conspiracy January 30, 2002 1:06 PM   Subscribe

The Grand Liberal Metafilter Conspiracy. Step inside, won't you?
posted by solistrato to Etiquette/Policy at 1:06 PM (57 comments total)

The background rumble has grown louder as of late: Metafilter's a haven for damnable lefties. Now, personally, I don't see it. Maybe that's because I'm Part Of The Conspiracy, but the now-constant complaining that "Metafilter" (as if the site was one big person) doesn't tolerate any viewpoints right of Marxism is getting a bit absurd.

First off, yes, Bush-bashing is somewhat juvenile. But let's face it: it's an easy target. The widely-held perception that Bush is a moron and a klutz (based in reality, IMHO) invites a lot of easy pointing and snickering. Perhaps not the most worthwhile use of bandwidth, but surely this does not spell The End of Discourse. You see an easy shot at Bush, avoid the thread, because everyone here knows what's going to be inside. You walk into the thread, you're gonna end up Scolding the Kids, which is about as productive as making fun of the way Bush talks.

As for actual complaints regarding Administration policy: justified or not, people are concerned about the actions that leaders are taking. I was concerned about actions Clinton took. Either way, it's all discussion here, and it's also a vent for people who have no other way about releasing their anxieties about these things beyond our control. Some of it is worthwhile; a lot of it is "me-too"-ism, but there's a feeling of safety in numbers.

What is comes down to is: any political thread is inherently worthless. I'm contradicting myself, of course, as there may be a gem or two in them, but really, posting anything regarding Bush, Ashcroft, or Clinton is an exercise in futility and borderline trolling. Granted, these are current events, but no online political discussion ever amounted to anything, and I don't expect revbrian to suddenly vote Democrat or for sudama to go David Horowitz on us.

But if you choose to dive into the morass, don't complain when your ideological opponents throw mud at the target you present.

Perhaps the attitude of MeFi's more vocally active and politically inclined members seem to slant left-of-center, but there are no goddamn Thought Police here. While we may we jumpy regarding etiquette (a pet peeve of mine (the jumpiness, not the etiquette)), no one has ever tried to censor someone because they were a conservative. You can say anything you want here. I recently advocated the murder of Creed and the subsequent usage of their skin as dress material. And that's okay.

If you have something to say, say it. Say it loudly. People will disagree with you. A lot of people may disagree with you. But to then complain that the people are disagreeing with you is whining. To say that there's a hostile atmosphere is playing the victim card. You're mistaking fervent political disagreement with Your Position with an all-encompassing attitude of hostility. A few people shouting loudly are coloring your perceptions of what's really going on.

MeFi's strength is in its non-water-cooler blogness. y2karl's recent thread about that artist guy (I'm too lazy to look it up) is a sterling example of great MeFiness. The political discussions always rank low on the reasons to come here, and they rarely amount to anything. Current events usually don't make good threads. But if you wade into the mud, don't be surprised if you get walloped. That goes for people on both sides of the aisle. And if (when) you do get walloped, don't blame the entire playground because you stepped into the mud pit.

You are welcomed into Metafilter. What you make of it is entirely up to you.
posted by solistrato at 1:08 PM on January 30, 2002


"You are welcomed into Metafilter. What you make of it is entirely up to you."

best. tag-line. ever.
posted by jcterminal at 1:21 PM on January 30, 2002


The widely-held perception that Bush is a moron and a klutz (based in reality, IMHO) invites a lot of easy pointing and snickering.

Widely held among liberals you mean. My dad is glad we have a president again, since in his view we didn't have one from 1992 to 2000. There are a lot of people like him. Visiting the midwest at Christmas time was like visiting another country -- people there like Bush.
posted by kindall at 1:24 PM on January 30, 2002


It's perfectly possible to like a moronic klutz.
posted by NortonDC at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2002


It's certainly true that of the people who post (who knows about lurkers). the numbers skew left. It is also true that right-wingers are little wussy cry-babies, and constantly complain about this. Ha ha, just kidding. But there is a sort of martyr complex with many of the right-wingers, who for some reason feel that if you disagree with them, you are both trying to censor them, and ignorant of the facts of the situation. This isn't always the case...and perhaps the liberals would be acting the same way were the percentages reversed. I dunno.

I guess my point is, what's the big deal if MeFi skews left? Why is it constantly mentioned?
posted by Doug at 1:44 PM on January 30, 2002


as much as I hate entertaining the concept of left vs. right ideological prejudice, file "The Grand Liberal Metafilter Conspiracy" under "the liberals run the media!" (replace the word "liberal" with "jews" or "blacks" or "gays" and see if it is still an appealing thing to say).

it seems to me like the ultimate motive for the stereotypical conservative is "posterity at all costs." for example, favoring business and/or family agendas over human rights agendas (thereby creating wealth), pro-life (as though liberals are con-life or pro-death), a strong and actively used military (intimidate and/or destroy enemies), and christian convictions (an afterlife, avoidance of self-destructive indulgences) just to name a few. the flaw is that this mode of thinking tends to lead to increased divisions between the wealthy and the poor, corrupt policy making, a decrease in human rights, and a never ending imperialistic cycle of wars.

on the other hand, it seems as though the motive for the stereotypical liberal is that of indulgence and hedonism guised as unlimited personal freedom and self-discovery. for example, free welfare (as opposed to working to generate the means for self-sufficiency), marijuana legalization, anti-censorship, pro-choice (as though the conservatives are con-choice), and against war. the flaw here is that a welfare state is doomed to spend itself into oblivion and an absence of a universal moral standard runs the serious risk of creating an immoral and self-obsessed nation.

while there is surely a happy medium to be found here, I think that it's too late for the US to adopt it. the only hope for it's longevity is a regular cycle of liberal and conservative leaders to clean up each other's messes (and make new ones).
posted by mcsweetie at 1:47 PM on January 30, 2002


That's right, Doug. Who cares if Metafilter skews left? Why? Is there profit in it, if it does? Is it a conspiracy? Is Metafilter a bellwether? Is a liberal Metafilter a bad thing? Will it harm the children? Will the right lose footing? Does it feel like a chipping away of conservative control? Is "liberal" pejorative? Is conservativism the default position and liberalism an abberation?

Who, please, gives a shit?
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:51 PM on January 30, 2002


I guess my point is, what's the big deal if MeFi skews left? Why is it constantly mentioned?

my guess is because it helps people simplify their time here. The world is an easier place to take if you create two boxes, marked either left/right or say those who like muppets/those who don't like it, and then arbitrarily toss people into the bins, either ignoring those not in your bin, or coming up with a useful list of Things People In The Other Bin ALWAYS Do That I Hate, to recite whenever the need arises.

Snarkiness aside, yeah it skews a little left, is that a reflection of me? That I was slightly left and people joined the community and followed that? It was much worse before, when there were no dissenting voices, in case anyone is wondering.

What I'd like people to come away with, after this realization is that you can have a right leaning stance and remain civil, and discuss your point of view to the mostly left crowd. You won't win any converts on either side if you step on toes or resort to name-calling though.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:52 PM on January 30, 2002


kindall: you are correct. Shoulda adjusted that line.

Okay, wait, before this gets a bit out of hand, I'm so not trying to start a "liberal v. conservative" thing. I am trying to understand why it's now accepted as fact amongst our more rightist members that MeFi is "left-leaning."
posted by solistrato at 1:52 PM on January 30, 2002


The world is an easier place to take if you create two boxes, marked either left/right or say those who like muppets/those who don't like it

definitely put me at the very bottom of the box that does like them!
posted by mcsweetie at 1:54 PM on January 30, 2002


mcsweetie's second paragraph pretty much sums up my political outlook. We pretty much agree. This is a tad disturbing.
Actually, sjc, it's a small minority of the right-of-center MeFites who throw around the "grand conspiracy" theory. To a large extent most of the MeFaithful seem to have political positions which resist the usual right/left definitions.
When I met UncleFes, he introduced himself as "the last conservative on Metafilter." I kiddingly responded "What about me?" He replied, "Nobody's sure what the hell you are!"

Which is the way I like it. I'm sure I'm not alone.
posted by jonmc at 1:56 PM on January 30, 2002


um, mcsweetie, I meant the MIDDLE TWO paragraphs. Don't wanna sound scary or anything...
posted by jonmc at 1:58 PM on January 30, 2002


sjc: you hit it right on the head. I try not to get involved with political discussions on MeFi because I don't classify myself as either left or right, but a fairly solid middle. If I agree with revbrian or SDB, I'll get a lashing from the left and if I agree with the mountainous left, there is usually a dressing down. Many times I agree with both on issues that I have no investment in. What I think is missing in most political discourse on this site is the simple phrase, "I can see your point." I'm not talking about, "I believe your opinion is contrary to my truth, but I can see where your situation and place in life would make you stupid enough to believe such drivel." I'm talking about actual debate and the possibility of that debate changing one's mind. I can honestly say that I've never seen a thread where a poster has changed his/her mind, even though my thoughts have been altered many times by what has been linked to or opined here.

At least this isn't Plastic where the boat leans so far left, you can see it sinking.

You can say anything you want here. I recently advocated the murder of Creed and the subsequent usage of their skin as dress material. And that's okay. -- Either we make this the MeFi t-shirt tag or we unite together, lefties and righties, and make this a reality.


posted by eyeballkid at 1:58 PM on January 30, 2002


Granted I'm a newbie, so bear with me a moment. MeFi leans left and most people, consciously or not, have understood that. Personally, what bothers me most is that many right-leaning posters are called trolls for snappy, rhetorical responses. Take the Real9 fiasco a few threads ago. On the other hand, posters like fuq, who present similar, troll-like, left-leaning responses are ignored. This is what people fear with the MeFi police, IMHO. If everyone was treated fairly, I don't think there would be a large conservative outcry.
posted by BlueTrain at 2:01 PM on January 30, 2002


Don't wanna sound scary or anything...

it's cool. just so long as you like the muppets!
posted by mcsweetie at 2:01 PM on January 30, 2002


When I met UncleFes, he introduced himself as "the last conservative on Metafilter."

But, but, damnit!
posted by walrus at 2:06 PM on January 30, 2002


As long as both sides enjoy pancakes. That's all that matters.
posted by adampsyche at 2:10 PM on January 30, 2002


BlueTrain, that's a good point. I actually do think some people are sometimes singled out around here, but I think more often then not it's due to their tone, rather than their political beliefs. Nobody is going to accuse Midas of trolling, because he doesn't write one line, snarky comments. But he seems to be pretty right-wing, at least by my standards.

I think we find more right-wing trolls on mefi because, well, the site leans left. That makes sense to me, even if I can't articulate why...
posted by Doug at 2:11 PM on January 30, 2002


replace the word "liberal" with "jews" or "blacks" or "gays" and see if it is still an appealing thing to say

Replace it with the words " people who like eggs" and see if it matters at all. The reason liberal/conservative debates are more palatable is that unlike one's skin color, or sexual preferences, people claim to arrive at their political beliefs through some sort of reasoning process. As a result, it's completely valid to think those preferences could change, given a convincing opposing argument. So people try and try. Since there are more people on MeFi who identify with more liberal viewpoints, they may have an easier time of it, and less contentious discussions awaiting them. So?

One of my favorite things about MeFi is getting to meet geniunely intelligent and thoughtful people who completely and totally disagree with every reasonable thing I think. Which makes me think harder about my ideas. Which is a good thing for everyone to do frm time to time.

jessamyn
immoral and self-obsessed
posted by jessamyn at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2002


As a fisherman, I understand your point, Doug. You have to use the appropriate lure for the water into which you're casting.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:17 PM on January 30, 2002


Take the Real9 fiasco a few threads ago. On the other hand, posters like fuq, who present similar, troll-like, left-leaning responses are ignored.

To a point; file under fold_and_mutilate.
posted by j.edwards at 2:20 PM on January 30, 2002


Believe what you want to believe, is my motto. Drugs are good? Fine. Drugs are bad? Fine. Bush is a dork? Whatever. Bush is great? Glad to hear it.

Just don't go ramming your political beliefs down my throat. If somebody wants to convince me of something, give me a discussion without the name-calling, trolling, and facts that could mean anything. Maybe I'll change my mind and maybe I won't. Hopefully, I'll have learned something.

And FWIW, trollers like to troll, no matter which way they lean.
posted by ashbury at 2:21 PM on January 30, 2002


BlueTrain - Left-wing trolls do get called out, so that part of your comment doesn't hold up.

Related: I've noticed that fold_and_mutilate has made comments since then that were several shades less inflammatory, and fleener actually contributed thoughtful comments to a discussion.

I forget which horseman this signifies the arrival of. Or maybe it's just another sign of the imminent collapse of worthwhile discussion on MetaFilter.
posted by NortonDC at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2002

As a result, it's completely valid to think those preferences could change, given a convincing opposing argument. So people try and try.
I've had my opinions changed here.
posted by holloway at 2:35 PM on January 30, 2002


Take the Real9 fiasco a few threads ago. On the other hand, posters like fuq, who present similar, troll-like, left-leaning responses are ignored.

Real9 acted in a very antagonistic way when he joined, mellowed out a little after a few name calling incidents, then make a couple recent blunders, but by and large I think he's mellowed out and won't be called on his positions anymore.

There are in fact crazy, stupid left leaning things said on the site that I despise, but I don't generally say anything about it, as I try not to say anything about people's politics whichever way they slide. If someone is annoying and right-leaning, they have a greater chance of getting a rise out of people, but just because no one says anything about crazy lefty diatribes doesn't make them right.

In any case, I don't find much use in self describing ourselves, putting ourselves in those bins for a simple reason: it polarizes everyone. There's nothing more pointless than to have a conversation with someone, and after a while the other person goes off on a very specific thing, stating how they absolutely love it and you must too, and there is no middle ground. I see that happening a lot here nowadays. People don't discuss things much, they post their polarizing opinion and the thread goes to hell, no matter which direction the polarizing began in (left or right).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:36 PM on January 30, 2002


I am trying to understand why it's now accepted as fact amongst our more rightist members that MeFi is "left-leaning."

Nader Nader Nader?
posted by Neb at 2:40 PM on January 30, 2002


As a centrist with an obvious leftward tilt (BillyC - you mah dawg!) there is a very obvious liberal bend here on Mefi as well as a tendency among those folks to pile on someone who's views are different from yours. Also in FPPs, there is a tendency to say "Bush Sucks" as opposed to "Here is a thing that Bush is doing that shows he sucks". I am certainly not saying I'm innocent in all that either, but as I can dig the money-grubby side of the conservative world I think I've got a little more distance than "The Mefi Left".

Not to mention the PC Brigade...
posted by owillis at 2:44 PM on January 30, 2002


Also, the Religious Intolerance on Mefi stinks to high-heaven.
posted by owillis at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2002


remember what i always said:"The government is conspiring to make you smarter" are we talking money spending, social theory, the last trickle of english liberalism, the publicans vs. demekrats. what, what is liberal in this context. im as right-wing as frikkin tamerlane but respect liberal theory (yes virginny you can have your new metal detectors and tax cuts)It is is though sjc thinks of @this@ as some hotel, stay, look around, take a dip, dodge the beadle and all. "bringing to MeFi" is that ....marrow of difference that personifies the individual amongst the crowd. (so to say)
posted by clavdivs at 2:49 PM on January 30, 2002


I don't think there is a liberal conspiracy on Mefi at all. Internet user demographics tilt left, and Mefi simply follows those demographics. Is that a bad thing? Not really, in my opinion. Many (most?) fellow mefites are reasonable, thoughtful people with whom I enjoy discussions. It seems we are more likely to remember the extremes in a conversation than the middle ground.

Are left-wing trolls called out as often as right-wing ones? Read any political thread on here and imagine you had replaced the liberal/conservative mudslinging with a black/white mudslinging and ask if you would tolerate that kind of insensitivity or that coarseness in a discussion?

Maybe us few mefi-conservatives are so thin skinned because we get attacked elsewhere by the far right for being such pinkos and we come here and get the same leper treatment from the left of the spectrum? Care to take a guess what telling other christians you support gay rights and are against the death penalty will get you? Not much more understanding than we get when we express conservative opinions here. I keep hearing how much more sensitive, tolerant and inclusive the left is, but I'm not seeing it. Maybe it's just MY problem.

[What I'd like people to come away with, after this realization is that you can have a right leaning stance and remain civil, and discuss your point of view to the mostly left crowd. You won't win any converts on either side if you step on toes or resort to name-calling though.]

I agree entirely Matt. I've never had problems with discussing substance. Turn it around as well though, huh... You can have a left leaning stance and remain civil, and discuss your point of view to a right leaning minority as well.

I'm not trying to bust on Mefi. I love it. I just think that we can all do a better job communicating our positions without denigrating those who disagree.
posted by revbrian at 2:50 PM on January 30, 2002


I've said it before in a number of venues, and will keep saying it:

Respectful dissent and civility are good things.

It always challenges me to have a discussion with someone who has the exact contrary opinion (I'm pretty conservative), and can express that with some joie de vivre and sense of fun and some facts. Even if that liberal wacko is completely wrong. (see? humor. mmmm, minty.)

And the above is why I come to MetaFilter, because I see a lot of that sometimes.


posted by ebarker at 3:33 PM on January 30, 2002


And then there's the idea that we should move beyond left and right, rejecting the pigeonhole ideologies as blind and foolish.

Regardless, as revbrian (and countless others) concur: It's all about being civil. We have much to learn from one-another.
posted by Marquis at 3:48 PM on January 30, 2002


Damnit, it's true! And to even the balance, I'll be arguing from the right from now on.

Now where's my rifle?
posted by Neale at 3:49 PM on January 30, 2002


There is little lower and cheaper than making fun of the President because he is not as eloquent as you would like him to be (or prefer he not be, to feed your ego). Not only is it low and cheap, it's 100x lower and cheaper because other people do it. Attack his positions--there's a lot there. That is, assuming you are sufficiently informed and articulate to do so.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:49 PM on January 30, 2002


Marquis: Excellent point. I tend to self-identify as conservative as it is a form of shorthand, as Matt alluded to earlier. I don't fit the mold on a lot of things, though, and I suspect many here do the same, of whatever political party self-identification.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone a few years ago, a very one-sided guy on a particular issue, who would not brook dissent. Something my grandfather told me rang true then, and it does now: Any idea worth having can stand to have some holes poked in it from time to time. If it crumples so easily, it's not worth having, usually.
posted by ebarker at 4:12 PM on January 30, 2002


I think there's an Intellectual Conspiracy on MeFi. One is more likely to get tongue-lashed for throwing out unsupported or nasty-n-trite comments here than in most places in the real world. I like it that way. With a caveat that the tongue-lashings are mannerful and the standards are consistent. I see it as a polite society that still allows conversations about sex, politics and religion. Where else are you going to get that?
posted by dness2 at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2002


I asked yesterday in another thread for some evidence to support this contention that MeFi is significantly left-skewed. No one has provided any.

How would one measure that, anyway? Many people seem to share a "feeling" that it's liberal, but I find that suspect. What if we asked all vocal users to self-identify: lefty or righty? I suspect the vast majority of users would choose "centrist." Is it valid, then, to second-guess their self-assessment, override it, and label them "leftist" because they are left of OUR position? How easy is it, in any case, to judge a person's politics from their posts? (Miguel called me a "lefty" a while back, which amused me no end, since the only political party I have ever belonged to (before I wised up and realized that such labels and affiliations were superfluous and inaccurate and destructive, and more about social engineering than rational classification) was the Republican party.)

Or would it be more useful to leave posters out of it entirely and to assess each POST for it's conservative/liberal quotient? Certainly, there are some liberal views (and rebuttals) posted here. Certainly, there are some conservative views (and rebuttals) posted here. Without some sort of actual tally and assessment, though, I think we still have nothing more than our "feelings."

I think, ultimately, it's a silly question, and an irrelevant one. Metafilter users, too, are self-selected. One does not have to pass a political affiliation or philosophy test administered by Matt to gain access to the site. It's open to all (civil) kinds. There will always be those who prefer to participate in a forum where many voices clamor in agreement with them; and there will be those who seek dissent and debate. Ultimately, the timbre of the site is defined by participation, and those who complain that they are underrepresented or persecuted are doing themselves and their views a disservice.

If you have something to say, say it. Express it clearly, thoughtfully, and as free of bias and rhetoric as you possibly can. And then, by damn, be ready to see it challenged. Defend it while you can, and be intellectually honest and flexible enough to modify it when you must.

Who needs labels??
posted by rushmc at 4:25 PM on January 30, 2002


Well, gee, I like the Muppets©, too!

One of my favorite things about MeFi is getting to meet geniunely intelligent and thoughtful people who completely and totally disagree with every reasonable thing I think. Which makes me think harder about my ideas. Which is a good thing for everyone to do from time to time.


And I'll second that, Jessamyn.

I see it as a polite society that still allows conversations about sex, politics and religion. Where else are you going to get that?

Thanksgiving dinner with the folks?
posted by y2karl at 4:32 PM on January 30, 2002


I have one sure way to measure which way MeFi leans. Wait until the next Democratic president is elected, and then see how often MeFi'ers attack him or her.

I believe you will find that MeFi (like most of the US and the rest of the world) is pretty much non-partisan in its dislike of all politicians.

"... or," to quote Donald Rumsfeld, "maybe not!"

posted by mischief at 4:50 PM on January 30, 2002


(BillyC - you mah dawg!)
Eew. You liked Billy Carter?
posted by thirteen at 5:06 PM on January 30, 2002


I believe you will find that MeFi (like most of the US and the rest of the world) is pretty much non-partisan in its dislike of all politicians.


Word.

So what isn't liberal bias? Seems to me anything short of producing the GOP's platform in giant letters means there's some meddlesome liberals about doing something wrong. The complaints about liberal media has become something of a self-fulfilling perception. Its like seeing your favorite number everywhere.
posted by skallas at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2002


Wait until the next Democratic president is elected, and then see how often MeFi'ers attack him or her.

They'll attack him for not being left enough, as opposed to being too "right" for Bushista.

Remember: Nader, Nader, Nader.
posted by owillis at 5:34 PM on January 30, 2002


This is not a Liberal/Conservative slapdown across the grand canyon of ideology. The vitriolic expressed regarding all things Republican is more Bizarro FreerepublicWorld, and the Bigotry shown Christianity is rude.
Common courtesy and the expression of ideas rather than ranting opinions would go a long way toward civility, and it might warrant discussion from others.

posted by Mack Twain at 5:47 PM on January 30, 2002


“Maybe us few mefi-conservatives are so thin skinned because we get attacked elsewhere by the far right for being such pinkos and we come here and get the same leper treatment from the left of the spectrum?”

Maybe the few crypto-anarchists are so vocal because they get attacked elsewhere by old-timey Democrats for being such irresponsible dissidents. Then they get the same leper treatment from both Republicans and libertarians.

In other words, I empathize—in fact I think you’re right—but the name-callers are still juvenile and deserved to be outed as such.
posted by raaka at 6:06 PM on January 30, 2002


I'm lucky I'm a libertarian.. that way I can disagree with and criticize anyone.

Or maybe I'm just a free-market contrarian.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:21 PM on January 30, 2002


...the Bigotry shown Christianity is rude.

Hear, hear. But does it all come from the left? Are all Christians conservatives? Are all atheists leftists? It honestly seemed to me back in the day that a lot of the vitriol towards Christians on MeFi came from the Objectivist crowd but that could have just been my own bias distorting my judgment.
posted by snarkout at 6:52 PM on January 30, 2002


I followed Mack Twain'S link and I didn't see a clear example of anti-Christian bigotry. Maybe my new browser window didn't open in the intended spot. Please quote directly.
posted by NortonDC at 6:57 PM on January 30, 2002


It seems pretty clear to me which way MeFi is slanted when conservatives such as Real9 gets censored while someone equally as obnoxious fold_and_multilate continues to post without any sanctions.
posted by gyc at 7:40 PM on January 30, 2002


gyc - All you've done is display your own bias and ignorance.
posted by NortonDC at 7:51 PM on January 30, 2002


gyc- I'm gonna break one of my most sacred rules here and say that you shouldn't beat a STRAWMAN like fold_&_mutilate to try and prove an imaginary bias.
Besides real9 was merely mean, f&m was at least amusingly insane.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 PM on January 30, 2002


Bigotry shown Christianity is rude.

You can't (well, you can, but you shouldn't) just use a word to mean anything you want it to mean, and this is a very poor usage. "Anti-Christian bias," is perhaps more accurate, but what I think you actually mean is simply disagreement and refusal to allow preposterous theses to pass unchallenged. The dictates of polite behavior do NOT demand that one imply acceptance of any nonsense to come down the pike. It always amazes me how very thin-skinned so many Christians are, to get all worked up over those who JUST WILL NOT SEE/ACCEPT THE TRUTH! If one truly "believes," and has the courage of one's convictions, why get so rattled at overt signs of non-acceptance?

There are worse things than being "rude." If I came to you selling stories of my complex imagined involvement with invisible beings, without offering a shred of proof--more, boasting that the truth of my claim existed in my very LACK of evidence for same--and sought every opportunity to impose my fantasies upon you, in the form of derived (and very irrational) moral and legal codes, and to deride you for your unfathomable and patently offensive unwillingness to embrace my stories and reward me with your mind and wallet, I suspect that you would not remain the epitome of civility and acceptance for long.

There are times and places when "rudeness" (or, better, directness) is totally appropriate and the best response (think of the telemarketer who will not take your gentle hints). It is almost always better to be straight with someone than to patronize them, and to pretend that you accepted my fantasies or that they were on a par with your rational experience and understanding of the world would be patronizing, insincere, cowardly, and offensive. Far better for you to look me in the eye, tell me you think I'm nuts, and achieve an honest understanding, so that we might get past it and go have a drink or catch a movie or something.
posted by rushmc at 8:03 PM on January 30, 2002


rushmc, I respect your argument here (am even to a point swayed by it), and maybe the vagueness of Mack Twain's "Bigotry shown Christianity is rude" invites it, but...isn't that all a bit beside the point? It seems to me quite obvious that there is a lot of open and unecessary abuse of religion, particularly Christianity, on MetaFilter. People take potshots at Christianity not to confront and enter an honest, illusion-free dialogue with Christians, but because, I'll wager, it's a "safe" target for many. It's like, "cool." It doesn't require explaining. And it gets pretty old, because it's lazy; and it gets pretty irritating, because I'd like to hope that an intelligent Christian could come here and not see fatuous dismissals of her or his faith tossed around as signifiers of how all-fired free-minded we all are.

I'm not talking about being too polite to engage the solecisms some religious posters substitute for argument: fire away, by all means. No need for kid gloves. But I see way too many pre-emptive strikes around here. As if any mention of a religious perspective means a person is a fundamentalist; as if its a good idea to comment on the religious dimension of any given link with a sarcastic dismissal of stupid Christians.

I speak, by the way as a committed secularist. Who likes to talk to intelligent Catholics, Buddhists, Baptists and Muslims (among others).
posted by BT at 8:30 PM on January 30, 2002


Granted, anything done to excess (or too "easy" or "lazy") gets old fast. I just don't think I agree with you that this accurately characterizes the majority of instances on Metafilter. It does happen, of course. Then again, you get whackos damning all who step outside of their narrow definition of righteousness to hell, too. And I think it is the rigid small-mindedness behind such words and attitudes that is most often called out here.

I am as comfortable in my agnosticism as I ever want to be about anything. As a result, I am too frequently disappointed upon encountering Christians (or practicing members of any other religion) who purport to be unshakeable in their beliefs, yet prove too insecure and defensive to even have a calm and open discussion about theological issues.

Anyway, I appreciate the comment.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 PM on January 30, 2002


A thoughtful response, rushmc. I suppose we'll just differ on the amount of reflexive anti-religious comment around here-- and it may be that I'm sensitive to fewer instances of that sort of thing than others are. To a certain degree "too much" vs. "a natural amount" is always going to be a subjective issue.

Perhaps I should just have said that I sometimes feel that MeFi atheists -- like MeFi lefties -- need reminding that the other side does not corner the market on being "insecure and defensive", and ought to realize that there is no point in talking about religion if you can't listen to religious people.
posted by BT at 6:28 AM on January 31, 2002


HHHs comments were what I was pointing to yesterday; I was purposefuly vague so as to not give him more attention. Those sort of demeaning, ridiculing remarks are rude and uncalled for, and since no one is trying to convert or convince others about religion in those threads, it is silly trolling. It don't befront me personally but it lowers the bar here.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:29 AM on January 31, 2002


It is never my intent to make anyone feel badly--I derive no pleasure from that.

However, I reserve the right to ridicule the ridiculous. To condemn the condemnable. To be amused by the amusing. Etc. My commitment to the pursuit of truth & understanding--as a way of life, not an ideal--permits no less. If this impacts someone's sacred cow...well, somehow I doubt the impact leaves much of a crater.
posted by rushmc at 9:55 PM on January 31, 2002


MeFi's leftiness is perfectly acceptable. Everyone knows that extreme-left pages are prettier than extreme-right pages.

*snipe, snipe*
posted by phalkin at 1:47 AM on February 2, 2002


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